Reviews

2012 Hyundai Azera Walk Around

Our first impression of the 2012 Azera's front end is that the car's an ever so slightly larger edition of its wildly popular Sonata sibling. At first glance, the grille looks like it's taken directly from the Sonata assembly line and bolted onto the Azera. It isn't, of course, and on closer examination, its cross bars and framing are thinner and it's subtly recessed in the surrounding fascia, giving it a more stately presence. The headlight assemblies wrap farther around the front fenders and are more sharply tapered at both ends. The bumper and lower fascia are flat and edgy, with sharply outlined lower air intake and fog lights. But that grille dominates, which, depending on one's opinion of the Sonata's styling, can be good or not so good.

Side view presents a subdued iteration of the styling theme Hyundai labels fluidic sculpture. A sharp crease starts behind the trailing point of the headlight housing and then fades just forward of the B-pillar, the vertical roof support between the front and rear door windows. Another, even sharper crease begins just ahead of and then flows over the top of the rear door handle, kicking up as it rounds the rear fender to flow into a gentle lip topping the trunk lid. A lesser character line runs the full length of the Azera, from the front wheelwell to the leading edge of the taillight. All of this sounds busy, but the differing degrees of severity in the lines blend and complement nicely. The roofline is fast, arcing gracefully from just behind the front wheelwell to just aft of the taillight's leading edge, with a triangular rear quarter window emphasizing the deeply sloped backlight, or rear window. Perfectly circular wheelwells wrap snugly around low profile tires, putting the finishing touches on a fresh, sporty profile.

As for the rear perspective, were it not for the trademark Hyundai flying H perched proudly above the reflector band tying together the high tech LED taillights, one might for a moment, while squinting with one eye, think Aston Martin. The dual exhaust tips integrated into the lower bumper contribute to the illusion. But opening that eye reveals a much taller body than on that megabuck Brit, although in all truth just as pleasing a collection of arches and cut lines.

Interior

From the comfortable, evenly supportive, 10-way power driver's seat to the 8-way power front passenger seat (which includes a height adjustment, often a rarity even among pricier sedans) to the dual-zone, automatic climate control to the navigation system with its 7-inch screen, Azera's cabin coddles its occupants.

The standard leather upholstery is supple without being soft. The Technology Package includes a most welcome extendable section on the driver's seat for thigh support, and the front seats have remarkably effective ventilating fans, the combination of which made the long stretches between refueling stops quite bearable.

The instrument cluster glows soft, blue and white lighting that's easy on the eyes. Primary controls for personalized settings and audio and climate systems are conveniently and clearly mounted on the center stack, which flows smoothly up from the center console with its properly positioned shift lever and seat heater buttons.

Dash styling is a bit swoopy but is integrated nicely with the interior door panels, which along with the passenger dash are graced with thin strips of blue ambient lighting when the Technology Package is added. The uplevel sound system delivered wonderfully full and robust sounds; even satellite sports talk radio sounded almost conversational.

Storage is plentiful, with front-door map pockets apportioned, proportioned and molded to hold real maps and water bottles, always capped, of course. Twin cupholders fill the front center console next to the shift lever. The rear seat gets twin cupholders in a fold-down center armrest and magazine pouches on front seat backs contoured to provide added knee room.

Front-seat occupants of the Azera will enjoy more head and leg room than drivers in the Taurus, Avalon, Maxima or LaCrosse, although the Azera's hip room gives up a smidgen to all but the Maxima. Rear-seat passengers won't notice any difference in headroom among these sedans but those in the Azera and Maxima will give up a couple inches in leg room to those in the other cars. Azera families also will have at least two more square-feet of trunk space for luggage and weekend gardening supplies than the Avalon, Maxima and LaCrosse, while the Taurus trunk will hold almost four more foot-square boxes than the Azera's.

If there's any finding fault with the Azera's interior it's with such minor issues as having to use your foot instead of your hand to set the parking brake and what to some might seem an overabundance of steering wheel-mounted buttons. One suggests a policy of insulating the driver, the other of encouraging, almost demanding involvement. Over a half-day/half-night, 600-mile trip, however, such seeming inconsistencies faded to trivialities.

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